Sabotage Studio, the developers behind The Messenger, are seeking crowdfunding for their newly revealed prequel RPG set in the same universe- Sea of Stars.
Seeking $133,000 USD on Kickstarter, the game “takes place long before the flood, where many islands are waiting for you to explore.” Though they do note the story is also self-contained, and “it will even work the other way around should you choose to play our platformer second!”
Much like Chrono Trigger, battles take place in the game-world, with characters hopping into position when they walk into an enemy. The Kickstarter also notes there is no grinding, with character progression occurring with the story. Even so, they do mention the player will still level up characters.
“Character progression in Sea of Stars flows naturally along with the story, without the need for any grinding. This concept is supported by a combat system which relies mainly on strategy and skill rather than statistics. That being said, you will very much be leveling up, increasing your stats and unlocking new special moves.”
This emphasis on strategy is mentioned again later on. “Losing a battle doesn’t mean you should go back and grind, but rather that it’s time to apply what you learned from the enemy’s attack patterns and improve your execution the next time around. With skill and strategy as your main weapons, there is always ample room for improvement when a particular encounter proves challenging.”
Battles are said to utilize synergies, with everything based on “building up momentum and effects over a few rounds, to eventually unleash massive damage by cashing out on your build up.” The game will also have six playable characters.
Combat will also utilize timed hits to increase the damage dealt by characters, or mitigate incoming attacks. Enemy spells are also said to be quite powerful, but can be “broken.” While casting, an enemy will have locks, with an icon representing a damage type. When hit by these damage types, the lock is broken, and the spell becomes less effective, and (with all locks broken) cancelled.
Sabotage Studio’s attempt to remove “linearity” from RPGs continues with their bosses.
“Each boss will present different attack patterns to learn, evolving through manually scripted phases and special events. Banking on the synergies, timed hits and spell-breaking mechanics, bosses will offer ample room for longer-haul strategies, giving players the freedom to see how much damage they can really deal in a single round with enough preparation time.”
Players also generate Eclipse Orbs when performing regular attacks. These can be used to double the effect of any attack, special attack, or spell.
Moving onto traversal, Sabotage Studio emphasized there would be no rigid tile-per-tile movement.
“Putting our platformer experience to good use, we make a point for moment-to-moment gameplay to present satisfying controls, micro challenges, and varied traversal opportunities. In other words, venturing through the rich environment should be accompanied by a feeling of freedom. While multiple paths and approaches can lead to your objective, leaving the main road and exploring less accessible (or hidden) areas will be rewarded.
Climb, jump, run, swim, vault and dive as you progress through villages and dungeons of all kinds. Anytime it feels like you can interact with something, the odds are that you can. Hoist up on rooftops, or jump off ledges into deep natural pools to explore underwater tunnels. Stick to the main objective, or follow your curiosity and see for yourself what wonders lay hidden.”
Players will also be able to sail between islands, with full analog control, and “negotiate waves, and take advantage of the upwards and downwards formations to optimize for speed.” The boat will also act as a place to explore, and talk to other playable characters.
The game will also use dynamic lighting and shadows, due to the game’s story motifs of the sun and moon. Along with dynamic day and night cycles, the games spells also benefit from this system. There are also weather variations.
This also plays into gameplay as puzzles. “Focusing sunlight through a prism in order to open some secret area may only be possible at high noon, while a magic flower blooms exclusively in the evening. You may want to follow a trail of glow-in-the-dark aquatic plants only visible at night, while some monsters like to sleep during the day.”
The game’s soundtrack will also be handled by Eric W. Brown (a.k.a. Rainbowdragoneyes), who also worked on The Messenger‘s soundtrack.
“In Sea of Stars, the music and SFX include instruments from all over the world, blending the catchiness of retro music Eric is known for with modern sound design’s best practices. Taking full advantage of the Wwise engine, all things audio are dynamically layered and adjusted to transition seamlessly through day and night cycles, indoor and outdoor areas, weather variations, and, of course, battle.”
The game is being built in Unity, combining visual effects with 2D pixel-art. On the technical side of thing, Sabotage Studio are working on the following for the game:
- “Post processing effects such as Bloom, Color Correction and Ambient Occlusion
- Pixel perfect rendering
- Fully dynamic lighting of sprites including normal mapping, pixel depth writing and shadow receiving
- Shadow casting sprites from multiple angles and punctual/directional light sources
- Volumetric lighting
- Screen-space indirect lighting
- Animated Height fog
- Water shading including transparency, refraction, reflection, absorption, subsurface scattering and contact effect
- Water simulation for rivers and oceans”
The game will support, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Brazillian Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
While the game does not currently have any Kickstarter goals (or a publisher for that matter) Sabotage Studio state “We won’t tack on features that would bloat the game to add more incentives, or remove systems that would make the game incomplete if we didn’t reach objectives.” There are however, social media stretch goals to reveal content early.
Backer rewards include a vinyl of the game’s soundtrack, produced by iam8bit, a DRM free digital soundtrack, HD wallpapers, access to a private demo, access to a private discord channel with the developers, and a digital artbook, along with in-game statues, monuments, and NPCs in “the crypt.”
You can find the reveal trailer below.
You can find the full rundown (via Steam) below:
Promising the Sabotage touch in every system, Sea of Stars aims to modernize the classic RPG in terms of turn-based combat, storytelling, exploration and interactions with the environment, while still offering a hearty slice of nostalgia and good old, simple fun.
- Engaging turn-based combat – Combat gameplay includes active player input during attack animations (timed hits), multi-character combo attacks, boosting, and strategic defense options to hinder enemies while they are channeling a powerful attack or spell. For a more immersive experience, there are no random encounters or transitions to separate battlefields, and no grinding. Both navigation and combat happen in the same environment.
- Unshackled traversal – Swim, climb, vault, jump off or hoist up ledges as you run through the world with a navigation system based on platformer expertise that breaks free from the classic bound-to-the-grid tileset movement.
- Prequel story set in The Messenger’s universe – Dozens of original characters and story arcs will take you on a captivating journey. Sometimes epic, sometimes silly, and other times emotional, Sea of Stars does its RPG duty of exploring classic themes of adventure and friendship, while also being chock-full of the unexpected twists and events you’d expect from a Sabotage production.
- Full-on dynamic lighting – Our custom-made render pipeline allows the creation of a breathtaking world coming to life by pushing the limits of 2D pixel-art games.
- The Sabotage treatment on the turn-based RPG genre – Every system has been deeply analyzed to create an experience that pays respect to retro classics, while reworking some elements to offer a modernized experience free of irritants and timesinks.
Sea of Stars launches 2022 for Windows PC (via Steam), and unannounced consoles.